IMAGINE L.A. an unfinished sentence. Not linked together by its complex network of raised freeways and looping interchanges. That was the Los Angeles that Richard C. Miller encountered. Lucky for us, he brought his camera with him. Miller’s work documents an L.A. that is almost impossible to conceive of — spacious, bucolic, idyllic. The master of the Carbro print process — a vivid color printing process that creates images that seem to leap off the paper — Miller was best known as a dependable workaday photographer at ease with portraiture and candids as well as magazine set-ups. He met Norma Jeane Dougherty (above) before she became Marilyn and saw something in her that she hadn’t quite yet seen herself.
I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with Miller and his family and friends while putting together a story for the Los Angeles Times about his archive, and just earlier this year about his first (and sadly last) show at the Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. This was the work that he collected in his off-hours, driving and walking around a much younger Los Angeles — the dirt roads, old neon, parking lots — the quiet details that made up a city-in-progress.
Miller passed away yesterday in Rhinebeck, N.Y., where he had moved from Calabasas to live with a daughter, Janny.
“He was like 007 with a gun over his shoulder,” Michael Andrews, a photographer and family friend told me earlier this year. “The camera went everywhere. He must have climbed to the top of buildings, hiked up hills to get some of these perspectives. And from these you see, he clearly loved Los Angeles so much.”